Can’t Forget The Motor City…

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Every life is a journey. The story of Joseph Nicks, a man escaping his blue-collar roots in search of room to breathe, room to become, room to find his music, and room to find his words and his life beyond the confines of Detroit, is told in unexpected poetry.

Do not be tempted to skip the prologue. It is the anchor of the book’s poetic style and the book’s chronology, telling the story of how Nicks’s father and mother got together and came to live in Detroit. This book is both about the process of growing up and the specific journey he chooses to tell in his poems as he crosses the country and reaches his life goals.

Nicks always begins his poetry with an emphasis on place, and place remains at the heart of his writing. The opening poem, “This Place,” is one of the strongest in the book and really is the foundation for everything that comes after. Another poem that exemplifies the importance of place is “You Are Here,” which in part reads, “In a place like this / we’ve traded our forests for orchards/ our rivers for canals / we’ve converted our prairies to cropland.” This spotlights what Nicks sees as the disintegration of the natural world as it gives way to man.

Toward the end of the collection, the poet brings things full circle back to Detroit with “Untold Winter Stories” and that important sense of place when he writes, “What once was snow, gone ashen / in a dozen nameless shades of grey, / interspersed with gravel, broken asphalt / grease and oil, and the sooty Motown fall-out, / of this stark blue-collar capital of the world.” Music takes center stage in “Stolen Moments of Gladness #3: words and music” as Nicks explores not only how the music of his time speaks to him but also how it speaks to his entire generation in various walks of life. The passage of time is another motif that can be found in many of these poems, whether Nicks is measuring time in months, as in “November No More,” or in seasons, like in “Before the Fall” or “Winter No More.” Time also becomes an unfair master in “Six Feet” as the author recognizes that, “somehow, it slipped my notice / that our life-clock spun / at different rates” after the loss of his favorite dog. Perhaps the best of the forty free-verse poems in this extraordinary little volume is “You’re Still the You of Your Youth,” which seems to tighten the warp and the weft of the writings into a fine tapestry of one man’s life.

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Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 74 pages
Publisher Blue Jay Ink
Publish Date 2018-12-13
ISBN 9780997125726 Buy this Book
Issue June 2019
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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